Thursday, September 6, 2007

Being Remembered

He stares hard at the student waiting at the other side of the center desk. She asks to pick up her package, and he nods, has her sign the register, and hands over a cardboard box. The co-secretary is gone for the day, and he swears that the fluorescent lights that they were replacing when he walked in that morning are now burning halos into his corneas. When the first desk worker arrives, he steals away with a small book of one pages stories and heads to the hole-in-the-wall bakery down the street. Both managers are at a meeting.

He orders two shots of espresso and a buttermilk scone, and the girl behind the counter – the pretty one – recognized him but doesn’t know from where. She asks him how he’s doing, and if he’s busy this semester. He nods. She asks him about his class load, and he tells her that he’s only taking one class in an MFA program, but is instead working fifty-five hours a week. He knows where she recognizes him from – a friend of a friend – but enjoys the anonymity. She asks where he’s working and he tells her the name of the dormitory nearby.

He eats his scone and sips his espresso and reads pages from the book, but only his eyes see the words because his mind is wondering why that girl doesn’t remember where she recognizes him from. Last time he was there, she was the one who told him that they were introduced by Emma. He barely knows Emma as it is. But in a town of forty thousand students, it’s easy to not remember why you remember someone.

He leaves his plate on the table and folds his book up, and crosses the street back to the dorm. His head is clearer and his eyes focus better. On his way down the sidewalk he sees a man who used to live in the same apartment complex before he moved. The man looks at him for a second, then nods and says hi as they pass. He wonders if this man knows why he recognizes him.

Now it’s ten thirty and he heads to his office for the first time that day. Sitting by his keyboard is a card and a mug. He opens the card; it is signed by everyone on the staff with thanks. A giftcard falls out. The mug is decorated with a dark brown glaze around the rim and on it is written, “Jesse’s coffee runneth over…”

He smiles.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Author (A Superhero Vignette)

Scene opens: I’m on my old red racing bike, hanging over the front and wrapped around the ram horn handlebars. The street I am riding on is old - gravel shoulder, cracks, faded lines that I can’t tell if they are yellow or white. Genius strikes. “The Author.” A superhero. With superpowers! But he’s just an ordinary guy to. It’s perfect! I can’t believe how awesome it oh Jesus don't let that forest green Jetta clip you as it zooms by WAY TOO FAST FOR A FUCKING SIDESTREET.

"The Author?"

"Yeah man," I say as I climb into the booth at the coffee shop. I set down my mug, it steams and smells a bit sharp - the brewer needs to be cleaned. So does this table. Ew. I thought it was brown wood, but it’s actually just dirty white formica.

"But what are his powers?"

This is Colin chirping in. Colin is a dick and has longish hair in the front that he always swoops to the side. He also wears black framed glasses and bright t-shirts that are blue or red - today he’s wearing purple - and have some hip minimalist design and a band name on them. And he's a bit heavy. Fuck that, he's fat. Round faced, always lurking, bead of sweat on his upper lip.

"I dunno," I shrug. That's a lie. I do know.

"Shit, that concept sucks. No one will buy it if you don't even know what his powers are."

"Okay, I do know what his powers are. Get this - he has a pen and and a notebook, and anything he writes in it comes true."

"What do you mean, like that he wins the lottery? Dude, that sucks."

I told you Colin was a dick.

"No, like, he could make a dragon appear if he wrote 'Then a dragon appeared.'" As I say "dragon appear" I stretch out my arms like I'm showing off how big a fish is. This is to illustrate the dragon - I am trying to show Colin I mean business.

"That's pretty powerful. What are his weaknesses?"

"Well, he's just a normal guy. And he's young, so inexperience. He can only manifest his powers through writing and he's hotheaded and impulsive."

"I still think it sucks," Colin says, and leans back in the booth. "I'm hungry, you want a cookie?"

I sip at my coffee. It tastes all right for how it smells - I think it’s African, but the brewers definitely need to be cleaned.

Colin stands up and walks to the counter to get a cookie. Missie - the short dark haired girl with pockmarked cheeks - is working the cash register. Colin leansup against the counter and smiles at her. I watch this over my right shoulder, but then turn back around and look out the big window to my left. Two cars drive by - a minivan and an SUV. Shit. He was right. The Author does suck. Back to the drawing board.

“Let’s work with this,” Colin says nibbling at a cookie. The crumbs fall onto his shirt. I hate him now. “Is it a magical notebook? Is the pen magical? How does this work?”

“No, it’s his power. He can use any notebook and any pen. It just fucking manifests, I dunno.”

Colin bites his lip and looks down at the table. He looks back up at me.

“This is workable. But have you ever thought about going the indie route?”

I look back to him. His round fat face. His fucking fat piggie wiggie oink oink fat face. His beady eyes, his fucking thick lips and that goddamn sweat bead mustache.

“What do you mean?”

“Well...”

The fat fuck almost spits when he talks. I can almost smell the ham on him.

“Shit dude, you always try to go the superhero route. You think you’re goddamn Alan Moore. But you’re not Alan Moore. You’re fucking Oscar Moody, a creative writing dropout from a major university who cries himself to sleep at night because he can’t fucking write a book. Why don’t you write a comic about that? Do nonfiction - it’s all anybody wants to read these days anyway. Remember James Frey? Everyone read the shit out of that book until they found out like a fourth of it was made up. And you can use your imagination in this goddamned comic anyway. Why not pretend that YOU’RE The Author? You probably do in real life anyway.”

I hate him. But fuck, he’s got a point. And he’s my illustrator, so if he doesn’t sign on - I’ve got nothing. And then I realize. It’s genius. He’s brilliant. I love him. I love his double chin. I love the rolls of fat poking through his too tight t-shirt. I pull out my notebook and I begin to scribble. Colin takes another bite of his cookie and looks back to the counter. Missie bobs her head side to side to the music. Her hair is pulled back into two short spikey pigtails. I take notes. A star is born. Genius strikes.




This should be noted: I’m a horrible drawer. I cannot draw. I have taken many drawing classes in high school and it should be known that I got A’s in those classes. But those classes were about trying. Not being good at drawing. My sketchbook looks horrible. Page after page is scratched out boxes arranged haphazardly with stick figures and every fourth page or so there’s an egg shaped head and two blots made by a sharpie for eyes. I am a terrible drawer. And that’s the hardest part. As a comic book artist, you create a portfolio. You have a big folder full of all the shit you’ve drawn. You show this to people and they give you jobs that pay you monies. When you write comic books, in order for someone to want to give you monies they want to see a book you’ve written. But if you don’t have anything published, you can’t show them a book that you’ve written and then they won’t give you monies adn you can’t keep doing this because no on is giving you monies.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grow Your Own Mustache - The Dick DeGraw Way!

All right now, I've heard enough bullshittin' and bellyachin' from the lot o' you. All this talk 'bout not gettin' enough pussy and shit. Now I've got me an answer for your bitchin' - you got no mustache. That's right, I said it. Ain' nothin' get them panties slick like a big ol' handlebar. Jus' the thought of those coarse hairs rubbin' against that shaved pussy'll make them ladies wish they were wearin' a diaper instead of that black lacey thong.

I've heard the bitchin', and I know what half you gone say. "But I ain' gotta mustache, and I ain' able to grow one." Normally I'd say "Tough shit, go fuck your own asshole with a cucumber, faggot." But that don't work 'cause most of those gays got bigger mustaches than you'll ever be able to grow anyway.

You doubtin' me? Well listen t'this. See, I'm at the bar, restin' casually on my elbow with my sunglasses, gold tooth, and of course Ol' Trusty ridin' my lip. There's some big-tittied blonde in a tube top and Daisy Dukes over in some booth with them silky legs crossed, and she catches a glimpse of the shine off my tooth. I got one hand wrapped around a bottle o' Jack and th' other's thumbin' my belt buckle, puttin' out the prize. Then it’s just a twitch with my upper lip and send that bushy mustache o’ mine wigglin’ an’ she’s on her way over. They all come to me. An' then I'm 'bout ready to make dick-ke-bobs out of that snatch.

If you don't have a 'stache like mine, then you're shit outta luck. She'll come over if you've got a fancy watch, but then she's gonna be askin' questions, an' lemme tell you, talkin' ain' what you want her lips to be doing. If you don't got the money - maybe the watch was a gift - then you're fucked. Comprende?

Movin' along. I got a solution for all y'all that cain't grow a snatch saddle. It ain't gonna be easy, it's gone hurt like a bitch, but when you're bathin' in the pussy juice, you won't have anything to complain about. Now sit the goddamned-piss-fuck down and listen in.

Simple process really, just gonna need a few things. First off, you need a dark living room and a huge ass TV. You need some burgers and fries and chicken wings, but those are just backup. What you really need is a five foot high platter of steak. You're also gonna need some PBR, whiskey, or Coors Lite if you’re a sissy sack of shit. To warm up, I suggest starting with a burger and a porn tape. Something tame, maybe a women's prison with a feisty guard. You gone eat that burger and watch that tape. Then it's on to the heavy stuff. I'm talkin' Ultimate Fighting, I'm talkin' World's Strongest Man, I'm talkin' professional wrestlin' and bowling. You watch that shit, you eat that steak, and you visualize that goddamned mustache growing. You feel those tingles underneath the skin on that lip and you know it's time. PUSH MOTHERFUCKER, PUSH! You give birth to that mustache. You eat that steak, and you grow that 'stache. The pizza and fries are for later. Them's for recovery. I'd recommend six to seven hours of football and hockey.

Now you're ready. Remember what I told you? Lean up against that bar, throw out the sign - belt buckle, gold tooth, whatever - and wait for that big tittied blonde in them Daisy Dukes to start walking over. When she reaches up and tugs and that 'stache and your lip tugs with it, she knows that them pussy-eatin’ handlebars ain’t goin’ nowheres, you’ll have her buck-nekkid on her back in that Motel 6 bed in no time, fuckin’ the shit outt her, and I’ll be there too with my bushy mustache, gold tooth and belt buckle, watchin’ from the corner. You just be sure that when you dump your load in her cum dumpster that you look over and acknowledge me in the armchair, Richard “Dick” DeGraw, the man that got you pussy tonight.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Statistic

The elevator led straight to the double doors. I stepped off the tile onto the thin hospital carpet, and then waited so Lena and Amanda could walk past me. They'd been here before. And I still didn't know why the hell I was there.

The walls were white on top and about waist high they were painted gray down to the flecked blue carpet. Neutral tones. We stepped into the first set of doors, and stood around, like in an airlock. Lena, a roundish, dark haired, eighteen year old Eastern European immigrant was fiddling with her belt on her jeans. She didn't know if we were going to have to remove our belts this time. Amanda was even rounder, had pink skin and wavy blonde hair with a piggish nose. She was wearing an ill-fitting white tanktop. I knew Lena from a few classes I had with her, and by the way she would make intense eye contact when she talked to me and ask droning questions about my personal life at innappropriate times, I could tell she had a thing for me. Amanda I knew from a different class, but I wasn't aware that Lena and Amanda were friends.

A nurse in a white coat came through the second set of doors after Amanda pressed the buzzer, and she handed us a clipboard with signatures and empty lines below them.

"Please sign in on the clipboard. Also, if you have any sharp objects, I'll take them now."

When I heard those words, I finally had a good idea that we were going into a suicide watch ward. The night before, Lena approached me at an event in one of the gyms and asked me if we wanted to go visit Katie in the hospital, but wouldn't say why she was there. I assumed the worse, and the nurse had just reasserted my assumptions.

I handed her a small black pen knife that I had in my pocket. She didn't say anything about belts though, so when the nurse smiled at us and led us through the airlock, we all had the leather straps wrapped around our waists, still holding up our jeans.

Right through the doors opened up into the main lobby of the ward. To the right was the rounded reception desk like a half circle with a back wall leading into some back room. To the left was an open public space, with tables in the corner surrounded by windows on both walls and a couch and TV directly to the left where we walked into the ward.

"Katie's room's this way," Lena said. It was the first thing any one of us had said since we entered the automatic glass doors at the front of the hospital. Walking through the parking lot, of course, was when Lena first mentioned belts, making my stomach drop.

We followed behind Lena, her jeans cutting just a bit into her sides at her waist, causing the extra skin to billow out a bit. Her hair had auburn highlights and dropped down her back in flowing curls. I never wanted to admit it, but I always found her to be extremely sexually attractive even though the word was that she got around. I think that contributed to my attraction to her, the thought of her experience, but it was also what kept me from ever making a move.

Katie, however, was the opposite. Katie was tall and wiry with short, dyed, light brown hair that was always stringy. She hard a sharp, short nose and thin lips and cheeks, but had these eyes that sparkled and seemed to smile on their own. I couldn't tell you what color they were, I just knew they were dark, almost black, and warm and inviting. She had an innocence about her, the way she giggled and smiled a lot. I had a philosophy class with her and Lena, and her and Lena had been friends since high school.

I didn't how to expect Katie to be. With a demeanor like hers, it was hard to imagine something driving her towards a suicide attempt. But I wasn't naive. In junior high school, my friend tied a belt around his neck and shut himself in his closet when he found out the girl he was dating on the internet for over a year wasn't who he thought she was. And I wasn't too surprised that Lena brought me. I'm a good natured person, easy to talk to, kind and gentle. I high school, I got a call one night from a guy I knew while he was at the hospital. He had just tried to commit suicide and didn't know who to call, so he looked up my phone number. Both Steve and Kyle were still Steve and Kyle. The attempted suicide didn't change that. They were both people who needed attention and understanding. They also both suffered from what I call "suburban outsider syndrome." The particular subculture they emulated encouraged negative emotions and suicide as an option. I was unsure about Katie. Amateur psychiatry offered no quotable phrase, no diagnosis.

I was nervous to see her. We all walked in a single file line, Lena in her burgundy tank top in front, Amanda in back, and me in the middle. For months I had admired Katie from the other side of the class room, only to have Lena make another drunk pass at me when I would run into her on a Friday night. I never really had ever talked to Katie.

"It'll be good for her to see someone else from class," Lena said to me when she approached me about the visit the night before. From how close she was standing to me and the way she was sticking out her chest, I had an idea why she invited me along.

Inside Katie's room, Katie was sitting on her bed in elastic waistband pajama pants and a gray hooded sweatshirt, the tie strings missing from the rivets at the edges of the hood. The bed closest to the window was empty. Her roommate was out for the moment.

"Hi!" Katie shouted when we walked in.

She bounced off of her bed and grabbed Lena in a big hug, and then rotated and leaned over and hugged Amanda lightly. She straightened up and looked at me with her dark eyes and said, "Thanks for coming!"

All I could do was smirk back.

And then I went numb. The girls started chatting, Katie said she didn't really like her roommate, who was an older lady, and Lena said that our philosophy teacher would definitely give Katie some extra time for the paper due the next week. They kept talking, and I know this is going to sound cliche, I really do, but it all seemed like everything was happening underwater. It's easy to read that statement and not feel it, but it's difficult to experience it firsthand. Every sound bubbles and floats away, every word is incomprehensible but you still understand what they're talking about. It feels cold and refreshing but you're not aware that you're breathing at all. And then all three of them are walking out the door to the common room, the one with all the windows and sunlight. And you follow.

"What do you want to do?" one of them asks.

"I dunno, let's play a board game," another one says.

And then you're all sitting around a square table moving colorful pieces around a colorful board, and you look up, and Katie smiles at you, and then it's time to leave but you just got there, and you're back in the airlock and the nurse places a black pen knife into the palm of your hand and you squeeze it once, feeling the nicked plastic against your palm before you shove it in the front pocket of your pants and you're on the elevator and it's bright and fluorescent in there and there might be two other people in the elevator with you but now you're walking out the front door and there's a huge rush of air and I am stepping onto the concrete sidewalk and the air penetrates deep into my lungs and I stepped down off the curb after Lena and Amanda, and I watch as they walked over towards Amanda's maroon Buick. I followed them and climbed into the backseat.

"I was out for a smoke when I guess she sent me the instant message," Lena said as she pulled the seatbelt down across her large chest.

"Really?" Amanda asked as she turned the key and the Buick rattled to life.

"Yeah," Lena said as the Buick pulled out of the parking lot. "I had just gotten back and I was working on a paper on my computer up in my room when I ran downstairs for a cigarette. When I got back I saw she typed to me and it said something like 'if it happened again i'm going to do it.'"

"I didn't think she actually would," Amanda said as the Buick pulled out onto the highway.

"Well I was at the same party earlier, but I had to leave to do this paper. She looked really drunk and was like falling all over the place. But she didn't have that much to drink, so someone must have put something in her drink. I just can't believe that it could happen to her twice."

And my toes curled up, pinching my socks digging into my shoes.

"I can't believe it either."

And my heart broke. The girl with the smiling dark eyes and small mouth had been raped, twice. My heart broke not for the sympathy I had for her, but because I was now powerless. I was no longer the go to guy with the soothing response, the smiling, knowing, easy to talk to comforter. I was nothing. I was nothing because the girl I never talked to but always wanted to had been raped twice at our small in the middle of nowhere Catholic liberal arts institution. And I knew that I could never talk to her, I could never try to ask her out because I would know that she had been raped, and that I couldn't do anything about it.

As the Buick cruised down the road, Lena sang along to Depeche Mode and AC/DC, taking the time to turn back to me and quiz me about both bands and whether or not I like their music. I spent the time thinking about statistics. When you hear about rape on a college campus, it's just a statistic. One in four. There are campaigns, though, women saying things like "I'm not a statistic, I'm a person. I'm a woman." But Katie wasn't a person anymore to me, she became a statistic. She was a one in four, she was a twenty to twenty five percent. And I was a statistic too. I was just another asshole, one in three, trying to pretend that rape didn't exist.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Strip #8


The Strip #8, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

My library only has a few different colors of book spines; what of it?

The Strip #7


The Strip #7, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

In which our fair hero recycles the image of himself one more time and learns how to draw a bus.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Letters

"Did it come?"

"Nah."

"Oh."

"Maybe tomorrow."

"Yeah. Nervous?"

"No, well, I guess, yeah. A bit nervous."

"You shouldn't be. You know you got in."

". . ."

"You're the only one with that kind of experience."

"There's probably plenty out there with my kind of experience."

"Maybe. But I'm sure you got it. Just check back tomorrow."

"Yeah, I'll just check tomorrow."